Horizon: The Trouble with Space Junk, TV review: Hypothetical situations don't make for interesting telly for non-space enthusiasts

Experts tried to get viewers excited about astronauts going on "space walks" to check satellites' health but there was no real action

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The Independent Culture

I was expecting Horizon: The Trouble with Space Junk to be a real-life version of Gravity, the Hollywood film in which two satellites dramatically collided with catastrophic consequences.

Alas, while the problem of so-called space junk is very real - there are, we learnt, currently at least 22,000 bits of old Sputniks and whatnot in orbit, whizzing around at 17,000mph - it hasn't happened yet. Well, okay, as Nasa types told us, the International Space Station was moved three times last year to avoid crashes, but all these hypothetical situations did not make for visually interesting telly for this non-space enthusiast.

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Patti Sheaffer of the Aerospace Corporation (BBC)

“It all looks nice and floaty but actually these are some of the most terrifying moments in all of human space exploration,” said one expert trying to get us excited about astronauts going on “space walks” to check satellites’ health. But there was no real action. Anything actually exciting was created using CGI images, which gave the whole thing a kind of Tomorrow’s World vibe. I enjoyed the segment where we saw some bloke at Airbus working in a converted bike shed that now said “Space Debris Lab” on the door.

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Dr Sandra Magnus at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington (BBC)

Finally, I thought, some excitement, like looking into Christian Grey’s Red Room for the first time (can you tell my mind was wandering?). Instead you got a bloke in a glorified shed holding up what look like a giant circuit board, explaining how his conceptual models would tidy up the junk. He demonstrated how they’d need to be fairly sizeable to have an impact on some of the huge hunks of metal hurtling around. “You’re not going to send a mouse to grab an elephant,” he said, which is unfortunate, because that’s a programme I might consider watching.

@sally_newall

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